In 2020, brands had to adapt their messaging and communications quickly to meet the changing needs of their consumers, whose wants, needs and behaviours were changing as they spent more time at home than ever before.

2021 provides a fresh start for marketeers, to reflect on what worked and did not work in 2020, and to make use of accelerated digital communication technologies to create new and compelling content for their audiences.

In this blog we pick our top six marketing predictions for 2021, and recommend what brands should be doing to stand-out as we kickstart the year. 

1. The rise of podcasts as a digital marketing tool

As a result of the pandemic forcing us to stay at home, we have all found new ways of keeping ourselves entertained. And while we have been busy learning and experimenting with cooking and home workouts, brands have been busy adapting to new digital marketing solution techniques.

Cat Davis, Group Marketing Director at the Drum Network, states there are few things getting colleagues and clients more excited right now than podcasts. Whilst podcasts are not a new phenomenon, 2021 is forecast to see a rise in brands using live streamed e-commerce as a way to increase customer engagement. 

For example, 2020 saw Vodafone Business partner up with Claudia Winkleman to  podcast series titled ‘business unusual’. The series involves speaking to businesses that have pushed ahead with new and unusual business ideas, by doing this, Vodafone has stood out in the noisy digital world, and we predict that many other brands will follow suit in 2021.

Image source: Vodafone 

A woman in front of a wall with the words 'Business Unusual' and the Vodafone Business logo in the bottom left corner

2. Online shopping for all

As non-essential high street shops have been forced to close their doors the world has seen a shift in the way people shop. A range of customers have turned to the internet to shop online. For those that preferred the traditional brick and mortar shopping experience, the barriers have been “broken down”, and it now seems that online shopping has taken the forefront and is here to stay.

H&M has been a leading example in updating its e-commerce services as a result of the pandemic. Previously, consumers suffered exasperating online shopping experience with long-delivery times and therefore found it much easier to visit a H&M store. However, 2020 saw it offer more flexible payment options including PayPal, faster delivery, and online exclusive fashion. The retailer has plans for 2021 including closing 250 stores as shoppers continue to move online. 

A lady with a shopping bag

3. Augmented reality digital marketing will become mainstream reality 

The pandemic has been a large driving force in taking digital technology to the next level.

Kate Afanasyeva, who works on Google’s hardware marketing team has predicted that 2021 could signal the moment that Augmented Reality (AR) finally becomes established in the mainstream stating: “2021 will be the breakthrough year when AR will finally gain a strong foothold in every corner of our lives — shopping, entertainment, communication, and more.”

Pre-pandemic MAC stores focused on their exceptional in-store treatment with staff on hand to help customers choose and try on different beauty products. With stores closed, MAC has stolen the show and expanded AR try-on for e-commerce. The try-on tool has been rolled out since March 2020. It is currently only available for lip and eye products but there are plans for further expansion in 2021 including foundation. We are sure that many other retailers from cosmetics through to homeware will follow suit as stores remain closed in a third lockdown.

Brushes and makeup equipment on a desk

4. Authentic marketing

A recurring theme for 2021 is that brands need to capture, or perhaps recapture their authenticity. In an increasingly digital world, brands that are not authentic, risk being left behind in the market. 

Mandy Pearce, President Elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, suggests that brands now, more than ever need to be authentic in their approach and ensure that they are genuine. 2021 will be all about building on what we learnt from the difficulties of the previous year.

To be authentic, brands need to understand exactly what their audience wants and needs and ensure that they are meeting these needs across all areas of their business from their marketing communications through to how they treat their staff and suppliers. 

Take Patagonia for example, a brand which aligns its marketing efforts with its core sustainability values to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. This authenticity has built a loyal customer base and it continues to grow as consumers become more environmentally aware.

The patagonia logo on a piece of fabric

5. Instagram marketing – the ‘Swipe Up’ link

The use of Instagram as a marketing tool is not a new phenomenon. However, Instagram is increasingly being used as a direct purchase channel for products and services. Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users and more than 500 million of them use the platform every day (Statista, 2018). A huge amount of potential customers. It is now easy for consumers to go from discovery to purchase in just one step, without having to even leave the platform. Here at Astley Media, we predict that “swipe up” purchase links will become a common theme for brands looking to up their marketing game in 2021.

The exclusive swipe up feature, specific to those with a business profile, and at least 10,000 followers, can be used to promote products, events, videos, podcasts. It takes consumers directly to the relevant webpage in just one click. 2020 witnessed influencers and fashion bloggers go crazy for the swipe up feature and 2021 will keep building on this as brands also jump onto this trend.

Influencers have been all over this trend in 2020, including fashion bloggers such as Olivia Rose who adds swipe up links to every piece of her clothing in her Instagram stories. This allows followers to shop her outfits and we must say, if the blogger wears it, then we want it too!

Iphone showing Instagram Logo

We can’t wait to see what unfolds for marketing in 2021, and despite a previously difficult year, there are so many marketing methods that can be utilised to up your brand’s game, so get exploring and see what works for your brand, and most importantly, your audiences. 

What do you think about these trends?


Blog post written by Harriet Rogers